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Top 5 Greatest Horror Movies

By James Amos.

Over the many years film-makers have supplied us with horror movies both great and not so great. Interestingly, the really good ones came to the big screens during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, with a lot of the more modern efforts taking an obvious dip in quality. The beauty of these classic horror films isn’t gore or violence, it’s the tension and atmosphere the film makers create, it’s the fully realised idea which makes them so memorable. In this article I’m going to be counting down, what I believe, are the very best horrors ever.

5. IT (1990)

“They all float, and when you’re down here with me, you’ll float too.”

stephen-king-itIT is a film which gives you a classic monster to haunt your memory, Pennywise the clown. Played brilliantly by Tim Curry, Pennywise feeds off of children, taking them away through horrifying scenarios. My personal favourite, and perhaps the most memorable, being Pennywise appearing to a young boy named Georgie in a gutter. The film triumphs in turning people’s irrational fears of clowns into something very rational, all due to Curry’s wonderful performance as ‘IT’.

If I had any criticisms of this film, it would be that it goes on far too long. By the last 40 minutes all the novelty of Pennywise’s tricks have gone a bit sour, and I much preferred it being the children against this monster rather than the adults. Something about the children fighting him made the film more terrifying yet a bit more comforting. It had great performances all round, the children even outdo the adults. Yet altogether the film is an unforgettable experience, and if they reworked the story and chopped off a bit of the time it could even have been a masterpiece

4. Halloween (1978)

“What was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil.”

halloween-1978John Carpenter’s Halloween is one of those classic American popcorn movies. It’s not really anything you’re meant to take seriously or watch several times to get everything from. It delivers all the goods in one sitting, and for me it is the perfect popcorn film.

It involves masked killer Michael Myers loose and on the prowl after escaping from an asylum, and his psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis, then trying to take him down before it’s too late. To be honest he puts up quite a poor effort, a lot more should have been done about this murderous psychopath on the rampage.

It delivers many scares and some haunting moments, the music especially will stay in your head for quite a few nights after viewing the film. Myers’ unrelenting hunt is enough to haunt anyone, especially the fact he walks after his victims rather than runs. All in all, it’s a great idea perfectly accomplished into a full, dark and horrifying thriller.

3. Alien (1979)

“If we aint outta here in ten minutes, we wont need no rocket to fly through space”.

alien-1979-facehuggerAlien is probably the best sci-fi/horror ever made. It is a thrilling survival story, with great tension, unbearable suspense and horrifying scenes. Obviously the classic and most memorable scenes being the moment the alien bursts it’s way out of one of the crew member’s chest. It probably helped that director Ridley Scott didn’t tell any of the cast what was going to actually happen in that scene, just so the audience can be treated to real reactions.

The set design is also a spectacle to witness, there was obviously a lot of effort put into this film to make the atmosphere pitch perfect, enough to keep the audience thinking about the film for weeks after viewing it. The pacing is also spot on. Indeed there’s actually a lot of time where not much is happening at all, but this is just bold directing to add to the tension. The actors are superb, Sigourney Weaver especially performs her part as the last survivor with ease, cementing her horrified facial expressions into the viewer’s minds for years to come.

2. The Exorcist (1973)

“I’m the Devil. Now kindly undo these straps.”

the-exorcist-1973-artThis is probably the most remembered and talked about horror movie in history. This is because it is purely terrifying, with so many moments which stay in the mind for ever. For instance: the spider walk down the stairs, the revolving head, the shaking bed and the excessive vomiting. All of these moments are disturbing to watch, and I have no doubt in saying that in my mind it is the scariest movie of all time.

However, it’s the runner up in my countdown and this is because, I may sound a bit pathetic saying this, it’s almost too disturbing. I feel uncomfortable watching it, and that’s exactly how you’re supposed to feel so it’s nothing wrong with the film, but I prefer films where I walk away saying how brilliant it is, not how disturbing it was. The Exorcist is, in my opinion, one of the greats in terms of horror. Yet when I look at what’s the very best, I have to consider something that not only horrifies you physically, but is the front runner in terms of psychological fear.

1. The Shining (1980)

“You are the caretaker. You’ve always been the caretaker. I should know sir, I’ve always been here.”

the-shining-artFirst place has to go to The Shining. In my opinion, this is the all time greatest horror film, and it’s actually in my top 5 best films ever made. The amount of theories I have seen on it just show how intense, complex and intriguing the film really is. Still, after all these years, no one completely understands it. If you thought you’d grasped everything, the very last shot at the end of the movie throws it all out of the window.

The Shining is an utter masterpiece, and you’d be a fool in believing it’s just a film about a family in a haunted hotel. You have to watch it many times as well as take a look at different theories and points on the internet to grasp just how much work director Stanley Kubrick put into this. I wont go into detail about that here as I’ll go on about it for far too long, instead I’m going to talk about why this film gets top place.

All three of the main actors do a superb job, especially the young boy who manages to convey being terrified better than any child actor I’ve ever seen. Jack Nicholson owns his role, making the descent into madness in his character completely believable. The screenplay, adapted from the book, is excellent. The directing is stellar, as I’ve said before, Kubrick put his all into the small details only people looking for them could find. His way of disorientating the viewer through making the interior of the hotel utterly impossible is mesmerising. His use of symbolism, for instance through countless mirroring images, is thrilling. And the attention he gives to detail has to be commended, I could even go as far as saying he is one of the best directors to have lived. And The Shining is one of his gifts to us, it’s the perfect horror that although may not keep you up at night, it gives you plenty to think about for weeks after watching. This is a horror movie that can’t be forgotten and can never be fully understood; that’s the beauty of The Shining.

  • ThePowerofGhostface

    Now, I’ve seen the top 4 of these (In fact, I’m watching ‘IT’ tonight), and I can honestly say you’ve done a cracking job in listing these, and describing exactly what is brilliant about them. I’d have replaced 5 with ‘Scream’ (Yes, I know I haven’t seen ‘It’, but Scream is such a good film! XD That might change after I’ve seen It though :-P), but I honestly have no proper complaints on this article. Well done, good work James!

    (P.S, did you know that Stephen King didn’t like film adaption of The Shining? o_O I can’t see why…)

    • A Slitheen on Mars

      Have you seen the mini-series which King wrote? It wasn’t too great.

    • gwbutler94

      Because it is far cleverer than his novel.

  • MrJimiTheFish

    I never liked horror movies, yet I’ve seen 3 out of 5. And heard a great deal about the others. Great choice!

  • http://markmfanfic.weebly.com/ The Clown of Death

    I’m really not into the horror genre at all, but I have seen all of the above. I must say this is really fantastic well written article. Well done :)

  • TheTimeTraveller is the Doctor

    Brilliant don’t know if i saw any of those films but it’s very brilliant article well done :)

  • Christopher Chant

    I passed out when we watched number 4 at school. I despise horror. It is just so messed up. Who could make such a thing?

    Sorry, your article is well written, it really is, so good job, and thanks, now I know 5 films I must avoid at all costs! =P

    • ThePowerofGhostface

      They made you watch Halloween in school? o_o Isn’t that illegal? XD

      • Christopher Chant

        I don’t know, but it was not a nice experience. Just give me the Silence and Weeping Angels please.

        • ThePowerofGhostface

          Well, seen as you said ‘school’, you were under 18, and Halloween is an 18, so the teacher who showed it too you could have lost his/her job o_o

          • Christopher Chant

            I think I was 14 or 15.

          • ThePowerofGhostface

            That’s still under 18, and seen as it pretty much traumatized you for quite a long time, you or your parents really should have complained…

            But still, too late now XD

  • The Oncoming St. Jude

    Honestly, the only one of these I’ve seen is The Shining. And I agree with every word.

    • TARDIS44

      That makes two of us :) And The Shining scared the living **** out of me!

  • http://www.wynneinwriting.wordpress.com/ GoodYear92

    Great list, James. I watched The Shining and The Exorcist as a very young child, and I was traumatised for months afterwards. So I can definitely vouch for these two deserving the ranking you’ve given them.

    It’s vague, but the thing from The Shining that scared me the most was the scene in the bathroom, with the…woman. Y’know, she was all, sort of…yeah. I had nightmares about that for ages. And after seeing The Exorcist, I had to sleep with the lights on for a couple of years, and most nights, couldn’t sleep at all for thinking I would be possessed. I’ve watched them both since, and though some of the scenes that terrified me as a youngster no longer do (in fact, the films themselves don’t really scare me anymore), I still recall the childhood fear just the same.

    I haven’t seen Alien (I’ve never been a fan of the franchise), Halloween (I hate slasher horrors; I find them monotonous), or IT (a friend put it on once, but we weren’t paying attention). But, yeah, those first two…horrible childhood memories.

  • A Slitheen on Mars

    Nice list mate.
    Mine would be:
    05. Scream
    A terrific and nerve-shredding horror film experience combined with black comedy and romance makes for a superb watch.
    04. Halloween
    An iconic and somehow magical film with a brilliant theme tune. I preferred parts of the remake and parts of the original.
    03. A Nightmare on Elm Street
    Iconic. Great theme. Awesome antagonist.
    02. SE7EN
    Maybe not your conventional horror, but this film has enough horrific moments in it to stand up against the rest of these iconic scary movies.
    01. Silence of the Lambs
    The best horror film in history, in my opinion. A blend of crime, horror, romance and psychological thrills, this won 5 Oscars back in 1991. A wonderful story, some Oscar-winning performances, wonderful sets and a haunting score from James Horner.

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